Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Missoula City Councilor Mike Nugent, also a candidate for mayor in the upcoming city election, appeared on KGVO’s Talk Back show on Tuesday to answer questions from listeners and make his case to be the city’s next chief executive.

KGVO opened the questions with the topic of homelessness and urban camping.

Nugent said he Doesn't Like the Term 'Urban Camping'

“I would like to see us identify one or two areas and say this is this is the place where it's okay (to camp) but I also don't like the term ‘urban camping’ much like the Poverello Center where you don't move in, but you come you check in you stay the night and then you leave,” said Nugent. “Yet in the summer we seem to want to let people build campsites, and I don't necessarily see the leap there. I think that we can look at situations that say, ‘Hey, look, this is open from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. and you could stay here. That lets our staff keep track of things easier to keep the areas clean, as opposed to dispatching people from Parks and Recreation everywhere, which is what they're doing right now, because we don't have any other solutions.”

Regarding the MRA (Missoula Redevelopment Agency), Nugent responded to a caller who was critical of the way some businesses have taken advantage of MRA funding only to sell the property and move away.

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Nugent Favors a 'Repayment Penalty' for Some MRA Projects

“Before giving somebody money to help do a project and there are guidelines on that,” he said. “I think we should consider a repayment penalty if they sell right away because we're giving money for the public good, but it is also creating more value for the developer. When the developer turns around and sells it just two years out, we still have the community benefit, but we also gave them this windfall. I don't really think that that's necessary, but I don't think that if we give a certain portion to a project, we should be funding this equity boom.”

Regarding the difficulty finding affordable housing in Missoula, Nugent, who works in real estate, said there were some problems no individual can solve.

“There are certain problems in housing that we're not going to solve,” he said.  “I work in real estate and I can tell you supply is a huge part of why houses that should be starter homes going for $350,000 are gone for $500,000, and even in this market where the interest rates are so high, there are multiple offers being had on certain houses because there isn't enough supply. We are in a stretch of really low supply and Missoula has not built enough housing to match growth in any years since the great recession, so this idea that we can control growth by not building is wrong.”

Homelessness and Urban Camping are the Hottest Topics Nugent is Hearing

Another caller asked why the Authorized Camping Site that was located near the Super Wal-Mart had to close down.

“I personally think one of the big issues was letting people move in and stay (at that campsite),” he said. “I think that we need to find spaces. I'd like to identify one or two this summer where we can do this and say you could stay here, but it's similar to the Poverello Center, where you could stay for the night, but then you've got to go. You don't move in and you don't put everything there. I'm not trying to be insensitive at all, but I think we need to find a balance between helping people solve these problems and being able to create wraparound services and get people where they need to go, and that's where the centralized places help rather than being spread out all across town and the trails.”

Others running for mayor include the incumbent interim mayor Jordan Hess, Shawn Knopp, Andrea Davis, and UM student Jacob Elder.

The primary election will be on September 12, 2023.  The City’s general election will be held on November 7, 2023.  Candidates who are elected in this year's election assume their official duties on the first Monday in January 2024.

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